Adam Engstrom

Service Learning Coordinatior, AmeriCorps

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Giving voice to people through the medium of photography.

Recently, I came across a Facebook group ( set up by photographer Delmi Alvarez that states:

"Every woman have a secret dream. We ask to Latvian women to realize its dream in one picture. [...] Goal of the project and the exhibition: Emphasize the presence of the woman in the Latvian society as a community in progress."

The group aims to get women to submit a photograph of their dream which would then be presented in an exhibit. I am very interested in the social empowerment potential of photography, and I think that this could be a very powerful way of promoting people who are often marginalized by mainstream society (not just women, obviously, but also racial minorities and indigenous groups as examples) not just in Latvia.

The possible positive psychological effects of allowing marginalized people a voice in such a way are staggering. And while it, obviously, would not fix the underlying issues of marginalization and exclusion, it would go a long way to promoting well-being in otherwise at risk groups.

I am sure that something similar to this is happening in many places, but we don't tend to publicize it well, and it could be done more. And I would love to start this as a website like JR's website ( but more focused on people's hidden dreams.

  • Jan 20 2012: An interesting thought. When I first read your subject header, I thought it was in relation to people who were mute, and using photography as a means for them to communicate, or at least for other individuals to experience how they view the world.

    But I like the idea of using photography as a means to promote those that are marginalised. There may be efforts to promote those peoples through media - photo's OF them, or movies/stories OF them, but I think it would be great to see it from their point of view - from photographs they have taken themselves, and of how they see the world.
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      Jan 20 2012: About mutes, I totally agree, and I think that they are definitely a group of individuals who are, in many ways, marginalized and so really should be included. Although, I think groups should be separated (i.e. women, racial minorities, mutes, etc.) because otherwise the main message would be lost.

      As for the content of the photographs, I was actually thinking that the photos would be a mixture of subjects, of the individual and not of themselves. Actually, I think that using photography to explore how people see the world, especially in psychology and sociology as of late, has been an amazing technique. It really decenters the task from the experimenter and allows people to replicate the world in new ways.
  • Jan 19 2012: Adam
    I love photography and I like your idea. It is valuable. I'll be watching in for ideas.
  • Jan 19 2012: Do you include video and their voices?
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      Jan 19 2012: I don't think that they shouldn't be included, but they would have to be a separate category because, obviously, they have different artistic qualities.